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But It's Thomas Jefferson's Koran!

By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Rep.-elect Keith Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, found himself under attack last month when he announced he'd take his oath of office on the Koran -- especially from Virginia Rep. Virgil Goode, who called it a threat to American values.

Yet the holy book at tomorrow's ceremony has an unassailably all-American provenance. We've learned that the new congressman -- in a savvy bit of political symbolism -- will hold the personal copy once owned by Thomas Jefferson.

"He wanted to use a Koran that was special," said Mark Dimunation, chief of the rare book and special collections division at the Library of Congress, who was contacted by the Minnesota Dem early in December. Dimunation, who grew up in Ellison's 5th District, was happy to help.

Jefferson's copy is an English translation by George Sale published in the 1750s; it survived the 1851 fire that destroyed most of Jefferson's collection and has his customary initialing on the pages. This isn't the first historic book used for swearing-in ceremonies -- the Library has allowed VIPs to use rare Bibles for inaugurations and other special occasions.

Ellison will take the official oath of office along with the other incoming members in the House chamber, then use the Koran in his individual, ceremonial oath with new Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "Keith is paying respect not only to the founding fathers' belief in religious freedom but the Constitution itself," said Ellison spokesman Rick Jauert.

One person unlikely to be swayed by the book's illustrious history is Goode, who released a letter two weeks ago objecting to Ellison's use of the Koran. "I believe that the overwhelming majority of voters in my district would prefer the use of the Bible," the Virginia Republican told Fox News, and then went on to warn about what he regards as the dangers of Muslims immigrating to the United States and Muslims gaining elective office.

Yeah, but what about a Koran that belonged to one of the greatest Virginians in history? Goode, who represents Jefferson's birthplace of Albemarle County, had no comment yesterday.

Love, Etc.

Engaged: Waldorf's own Benji Madden, to Aussie starlet Sophie Monk, both 27. The Good Charlotte frontman (whose brother/band-mate Joel just split from Hilary Duff), proposed to his gal on Christmas Eve in Australia, his rep said. Monk, who appeared in "Date Movie" and "Click," visited Madden's home town in October and hasn't yet been quoted trash-talking Charles County

Hey, Isn't That...?

Redskins Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts toasting 2007 with an assortment of well-dressed ladies and lots of Veuve Clicquot in a reserved lounge at the new downtown restaurant Posh. Portis topped off his casual-chic look with hat and sunglasses, all the better to be picked out in the crowd.

Shimon Peres lunching at Teatro Goldoni yesterday after attending Gerald Ford's funeral. The former PM of Israel, with three dining partners and scads of security, lingered for 261/27 hours over white wine, steamed vegetables and grilled shrimp.

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Poor Kevin Federline! On New Year's Day he got body-slammed in a Miami wrestling ring by WWE champ John Cena. And Britney's ex is getting clobbered in our 2006 Reliable Source year-end poll as well.

We nominated K-Fed as one of the most memorable Washington gossip stories of '06 for his announcement at Verizon Center last month that we can't call him K-Fed anymore. But as of last night he was trailing contenders like Cynthia McKinney, Mary Cheney and TomKat. Still not too late to have your say: Check out our poll -- voting ends tonight. You can also join our live Web chat at noon, or e-mail us at reliablesource@washpost.com.

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